Latest Essays

An American Devil Figure: The Complicated Legacy of Joseph McCarthy

One of the most infamous figures of 20th-century American history gave one of the most infamous speeches of 20th-century American history 70 years ago this winter. Speaking before a Republican women’s group in Wheeling, West Virginia, on February 9, 1950, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (R-WI), declared that a certain number of US State Department employees (the precise number was unclear and changed over time) were Communists and that he possessed a list of these Communists’ names.

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Big Brother Is (Still) Watching You: The Xinjiang Crack-Down


Xinjiang is China’s westernmost province, inhabited predominantly by Muslim ethnic minorities, the largest of these the Uighurs. For several years, this province has been the target of a wave of Chinese government repression that is apparently motivated by fears of terrorism and separatism. This repression has turned Xinjiang into something approaching a giant prison.

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“Somewhere Else When the Trigger Is Pulled”: Orwell and War


As an opponent of capitalism, imperialism, and tyranny, George Orwell filled his writings with fierce condemnations of various de-humanizing injustices. War was harder for him to condemn, though. Sometimes Orwell supported war—occasionally with shocking callousness. Other times he criticized war’s violence in ways peace advocates would appreciate.

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Recognizing Humanity: Orwell and the Consistent Life Ethic

We’re 70 years from the publication of one of the 20th century’s most influential books: Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell’s 1949 novel about future life under a dramatically repressive regime has shaped political debate and popular culture for decades. The novel’s anniversary will doubtless prompt further reflections. I reflect on Orwell’s concern for defending human dignity against many threats—a concern that resembled the consistent ethic of life.

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Nuclear Disarmament as a Social Justice Issue

Activists seeking to end or radically reduce nuclear weapons’ threat may find it difficult to get public attention. Despite the high stakes involved—the lives of millions and even humanity’s survival—the nuclear threat frequently seems distant and abstract. The danger is future and hypothetical, in contrast to current, actual situations of people dying or suffering from other injustices. Anti-nuclear peace activists should recall how the struggle against nuclear weapons has been connected to other struggles: for gender and racial equality, against poverty, and for the protection of preborn humans. These connections between the nuclear disarmament cause and other causes have a long history.

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